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TBR News August 18, 2016

Aug 18 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. August 18, 2016: “I have learned from a source in the Chase Manhattan bank that his people are scared literally shitless over the news, gleaned from a very competent German intelligence service, that a group, totally off the screen, not Muslim and probably American-based, have managed to crack the entrance information into the electronic, international banking wire and transfer system. These are:


  • SWIFT (Bruxelles)

Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Transactions


  • CHAPS (London)

Clearing House Automated Payments System


  • CHIPS (New York) – Private Sector

Clearing House Interbank Payments System


  • FEDWIRE (New York) – US Government

Fedwire Funds Service


If, as the German reports have rumored, someone or some group successfully sabotages these systems, the world of international banking and the entire country would suffer a terrible blow that would take months, if not years, to recover from. Billions of dollars in bank transfers would vanish instantly and replicating the data, if the attackers know what they are doing, would take eons to try to replace. For instance, the BofA transfers $200,000,000 to a bank in Germany and in a nano second, the transfer vanishes. No money is sent and none received. I do not know if this operation is connected with other very disruptive activities that our Brave Defenders of Liberty are trying to track but the Germans seem to feel that the elements involved are not Arabs or Russians but Americans because of the idiomatic English in the messages they have decoded.”

Christ the Essene

by Harry von Johnston. PhD


   The Falsification of the Gospels 

The so-called Gospel according to St. Mark is now regarded as the oldest of the gospels, but was not in any case composed before the destruction of Jerusalem, that the alleged author has Jesus predict, which, in other words, had already happened when the author(s) wrote. This Gospel was probably written not less than a half a century after the time assigned for the death of Jesus. The resulting work is obviously the product of a half a century of legend making.

Mark is followed by Luke, then by the so-called Matthew, and last of all by John, the latter appearing for the first time in the middle of the second century, at least a hundred years after the purported birth of Jesus. And it should be noted that the further one advances from the purported period of Jesus’ life and ministry, the more miraculous the gospel stories become. Mark tells of miracles, but they are insignificant ones compared to those that follow.

Take the raising of the dead as an example.

In Mark, Jesus is called to the bedside of Jairus’ daughter, who is at the point of death. Everyone thinks she is dead already, but Jesus says: “the damsel…but sleepeth,” reaches out his hand, and she arises (Mark Chapter 5).

In addition to their credulity, the evangelists were extremely ignorant people, who had thoroughly twisted ideas about many of the things they wrote of. For example,  Luke has Joseph leave Nazereth with Mary on account of a census in the Roman Empire, and go to Bethlehem, where Jesus is born.

But there was no such census under Augustus. Moreover, Judea became a Roman province only after the date given for the birth of Jesus. A census was held in the year 7 CE, but in the places where people lived, and thus did not require the trip to Bethelehem

The most accepted manuscripts of Mark close with the eighth verse of the sixteenth chapter, where the women seek the dead Jesus in the grave, but find a youth in a long white robe instead. Then they left the grave and “were afraid.”

What follows in the traditional editions was added much later. It is impossible that the work ended with this eighth verse. Renan already assumed that the remaining portion had been stricken out in the interests of propaganda, since it contained an account that must have been objectionable to later social attitudes and contrary to period church dogma.

The gospels were in no manner to be considered historical records and they were not written to report how things happened, but were works of religious propaganda.

Everything that the gospels say of Jesus’ first thirty years is totally inaccurate, and everything regarding the following years has been thoroughly proved to have been invented.

For example, the so-called Lord’s Prayer is regarded as a specific product of Jesus. But the German historian Pfleiderer shows that an Aramaic Kaddish prayer going far back into time before Jesus, ended with the words: “Exalted and blessed be His great name in the world He created according to His will. May he set up His kingdom in your lifetime and the lifetime of the whole house of Israel.” so the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer is an imitation.

It is extremely evident that the gospels of the New Testament were not written by the disciples of Christ; they do not reflect the impression made by the person of Christ on the members of the Christian community at the time of their purported writing. Even the strongest impression gained from the writing does not testify to the historical truth of any story.

In Judaism, in the centuries directly before and after Jesus, fictitious personalities had tremendous influence when the deeds and doctrines attributed to them corresponded to the deeply felt needs of the Jewish people.

This is shown by example by the figure of the prophet Daniel, of whom the Old Testament book of Daniel reports that he lived under Nebuchadnezzar, Darius and Cyrus, that is in the sixth century BCE, worked the greatest of miracles and made prophecies that were fulfilled later in the most amazing way, ending with the prediction that great afflictions would come to Judaism, out of which a savior would rescue them and raise them to new glory.

This Daniel never existed; the book dealing with him was written about 165 BCE, at the time of the Maccabean uprising; (The Maccabean Revolt was a conflict, lasting from 167 to 160 BC,) and it is no wonder that all the prophecies that the prophet ostensibly made in the sixth century BCE were so strikingly confirmed up to that year, and convinced the pious but ignorant reader that the final prediction of so infallible a prophet must come to pass without fail. The whole book is a bold fabrication and yet had the greatest effect: the belief in the Messiah, the belief in a Savior to come, got its strongest sustenance from it, and it became the model for all future prophecies of a Messiah.

The book of Daniel also shows, however, how casually fraud was, and still is, practiced in pious circles when it was a question of attaining an end. The effect produced by the figure of Jesus is therefore no proof at all of its historical accuracy.

Matters are in no better shape with the rest of early Christian literature. Everything that ostensibly comes from contemporaries of Jesus, as from his apostles for instance, is known to be completely spurious, at least in the sense that it was a production of a much later time.

And as for the letters that are attributed to the apostle Paul, there are none whose authenticity is not in serious dispute, and many of them have been shown by historical analysis to be completely false. The grossest of these forgeries is the second letter to the Thessalonians. In this obviously counterfeit letter the author, using the name of Paul, warns: “That ye be not shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us” (2,2). And at the end the forger adds:  “The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.” It was just these words that betrayed the forger.

A number of other letters of Paul are perhaps the earliest literary productions of the Christian movement but about Jesus however they tell us virtually nothing, except that he was alleged to have been crucified and then ascended to heaven.

According to the Jewish concept, the Messiah should be of royal lineage. Over and over again he is spoken of as the “Son of David” or “Son of God” which in the Jewish religious system amounted to the same thing. Thus the second book of Samuel represents God as saying to David: “I will be his (your descendants’) father, and he shall be my son” (II Samuel 7, verse 14).

And in the second Psalm the king says; “The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son: this day have I begotten thee.”

This is why it was necessary to show that Jesus’ father, Joseph, had a long pedigree going back to David, and to have Jesus the Nazarene born in Bethlehem, the city of David. The strangest statements are introduced to make this plausible. Early in the book we referred to the story in Luke (2, verse 1 f):

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife, being great with child.”

The author, or authors, of Luke had heard an echo of something in the distant past, and in their ignorance, made complete nonsense of it.

Augustus never ordered a general census of the empire. What is referred to is obviously the census that Quirinius had taken in Judea in the year 7 CE, Judea being then a Roman province.

This was the first census of the sort there.

But this confusion is the least of it. What are we to say of the idea that in a general imperial census, or even in a provincial census everyone must go to his birthplace to be recorded? Even today, in the age of flight, such a decree would lead to the most frightful confusion, only to be surpassed by its uselessness. As a matter of fact every one registered in his dwelling place in a Roman census as well, and only men had to do so in person.

But it would not have suited the pious purpose, if Joseph had gone by himself to the city of David. And so, after inventing the census, they have to invent the regulation that every head of a household must to his native place with his whole tribe, so that Joseph would be forced to drag his wife along despite her advanced state of pregnancy.

The whole labor of partisan invention was in vain, however, and actually caused serious embarrassment for Christian thought as the community outgrew the Jewish community.

For the pagan world, David and his descendants were a matter of complete indifference, and it was not any kind of a recommendation to be a descendant of David. Hellenistic and Roman thinking on the other hand, was quite inclined to take seriously the fatherhood of God, which to the Jews was merely a symbol of royal descent.

It was not unusual for Greeks and Romans to regard a great man as the son of Apollo or some other god.

Yet Christian thought encountered a slight difficulty in its effort thus to raise the Messiah in the eyes of the heathen, namely, the monotheism it had taken over from Judaism. The fact that a god begets a son presents no difficulty to polytheism: there is just one more god. But that God begets a god and there is still but one God, is something not easy to conceive.

The question is not made simpler by going on to separate the generating power that emanated from the Deity as a separate Holy Ghost. All that was needed was to get three persons under one hat. On this task the most sweeping fantasy and acute hair-splitting were wrecked. The Trinity became one of those mysteries that can only be believed, not understood; one that has to be believed precisely because it is absurd.

There is no religion without contradictions. None of them arose in a single mind by a purely logical process; each one is product of manifold social influences, often going back centuries and reflecting very diverse historical situations.

But there is hardly another religion so rich in contradictions and absurdities as the Christian religion, since there was hardly another that grew out of such harsh contradictions: Christianity evolved from Judaism to Romanism, from proletarianism to world domination, from a purely communistic concept to organizing the exploitation of all classes.

Meanwhile, the union of Father and Son in a single person was not the only difficulty for Christian thinking that arose out of the picture of the Messiah as soon as it came under the influence of the non-Jewish environment.

What was to be done about Joseph’s fatherhood? Mary could now no longer have conceived Jesus by her husband. And since God had mated with her not as a man but as spirit, she must have remained a virgin. That was the end of Jesus’ decent from David. Yet so great is the power of tradition in religion that despite everything the beautifully constructed pedigree of Joseph and Jesus’ designation as Son of David continued to be handed down faithfully. Poor Joseph now had the thankless role of living with the Virgin without touching that virginity, and without being in the least disturbed by her pregnancy. And what about Jesus’ two older brothers? Were they, too, the product of Celestial penetration?

Washington’s Outrage and Excuses

Sometimes it seems that if not for double standards, Official Washington would have no standards at all – especially when it comes to outrage against some “strongmen” and excuses for others, as Lawrence Davidson describes

August 16, 2016

by Lawrence Davidson

Consortium News

The United States has been, and continues to be, selective about which foreign strongmen it does and does not support. Among the latter, there have been Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Iran, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela (who was not as autocratic as publicly portrayed), Fidel Castro in Cuba, and Vladimir Putin in Russia. These are just a few of those recent rulers who have drawn the wrath of the “democratic” exemplars in Washington. That wrath often includes economic strangulation, CIA plots and even invasion.

In the meantime, another group of autocrats is well tolerated by the U.S. Among this group are Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Egypt’s General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and various European rightwing politicos such as Viktor Orban of Hungary. Each of these strongmen shows little tolerance for dissent and a ready willingness to exploit racially tinged nationalism.

What is behind Washington’s double standards – its contrasting reactions to one set of regimes as against another? Often American politicians will talk about promoting democracy and claim that the dictators they support have a better chance of evolving in a democratic direction than those they oppose. It might be that these politicians actually believe this to be the case, at least at the moment they make these declarations. But there is no historical evidence that their claims are true. This argument is largely a face-saving one. Other underlying reasons exist for the choices they make.

Here are a few of those probable reasons:

The friend/enemy of our friend/enemy is our friend/enemy. In this scenario the primary friend of the U.S. is Israel and the primary enemy is Russia. The secondary friend/enemy countries are the decidedly undemocratic Egypt and Syria. Egypt became a friend of the U.S. once Anwar Sadat made a peace treaty with Israel in March of 1979. Syria, on the other hand, has always been hostile to Israel and it has remained an enemy state. No democratic motivation is to be found here.

Cold War positioning rationale. After World War II Turkey became a “strategic asset” by virtue of its proximity to the Soviet Union and its willingness to house U.S. air bases and missile launchers. The repeated interference of the Turkish military in civilian politics was of no consequence to Washington. Present-day East European governments, increasingly autocratic in nature, seem to be considered by many in the Pentagon as “post Cold War” assets on the border of a Russia that never ceased to be an enemy. For a whole subset of Americans (militarists and neoconservatives), the Cold War never really did end.

Resource assets rationale.

Autocracies such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait fall into this category. The U.S. assumes a role of a supportive ally in exchange for stable and affordable worldwide oil prices. Sunni suppression of Shiite and other minorities in these countries is immaterial.

What happens if such resource-rich regimes do an about-face and are no longer cooperative with the United States? Well, you have your answer in Iran. Here the U.S. was once completely supportive of the Shah, but he was replaced by hostile ayatollahs in 1979. So friendliness has given way to tactics of economic isolation and CIA plots. Again, democracy has little to do with anything in these cases.

The classic left vs. right rationale.  Finally, there is the historically entrenched U.S. tradition that economically cooperative autocratic regimes are acceptable allies. “Cooperative” here means rulers who engage in friendly capitalist behavior: tolerate private enterprise and safeguard the property of foreign investors. Such an economic stance pre-dates the Cold War and has always been more important than political freedoms.

Those who act this way, such as Chile under Augusto Pinochet or Argentina under its brutal regime of military rule, get a free pass when they suppress democracy and civil rights. However, other regimes, such as those in Cuba under Castro and Venezuela under Chavez are treated differently. In the case of Venezuela, democracy was in fact practiced, but because of its socialist-leaning economic policies, Washington tried very hard to destroy the country’s government. For those interested in the evolution of this classic U.S. foreign policy, its history is explained in detail in my book, Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest.

Democracy and the “Other”

By prioritizing traditional alliances, control of resources and economic ideology, the U.S. turns a blind eye to other aspects of autocratic behavior that contradict its own avowed values, thereby setting up a vivid display of foreign policy hypocrisy. An example is the issue of democracy and the “Other.”

Since the 1960s the United States has been struggling with its racist impulses. That is, most of its population knows that discrimination against the “Other” is wrong. They can recognize it in the country’s voting laws, in the behavior of its police, and in the attitude of a political candidate like Donald Trump. Official steps, even if they are agonizingly slow and subject to periodic reversals, are taken to dampen down, if not overcome, such public biases. You would think that such sensitivity would carry over into foreign affairs. Yet the opposite is true.

Many of the autocratic leaders the U.S. favors have risen to power, at least in part, through instilling fear of the “Other” – those who threaten the fantasies of an eternal national character, pure blood, and the status of a God-chosen people. For instance, Washington’s premier ally in the Middle East, Israel, is a state that, at best, can be described as an officially discriminatory democracy where bias against the “Other” (in this case the Palestinians and other non-Jews) is legally sanctioned.

In the case of Europe, the present rising popularity of the right wing and its authoritarian leaders is directly derived from a fear of the “Other.” This, in turn, has been stimulated by a refugee crisis that the United States and its allies helped to create.

The destruction of Iraq was a catalyst that let loose forces that have also overwhelmed Syria and Libya and set in motion the deluge of refugees moving out of the Middle East and North Africa toward Europe. The U.S. government accepts the anti-democratic rightwing autocrats who now exploit a fear of hundreds of thousands of displaced persons for which Washington is, in large part, responsible.

The end of the Cold War did not put to rest the West’s militaristic ideological forces. Indeed it gave them a boost. Those pushing “neoconservative” foreign policies are still well represented within U.S. government bureaucracies. Their policies are based on fantasies of “regime change” and remaking the world so it comes under the permanent influence of the United States. Democracy, however, is not now, nor has it ever been, the end game of this process.

Instead, U.S. foreign affairs have been designed to spread capitalist economic practices that facilitate the prosperity of its own “ruling” class. Along the way, the U.S, seeks resource reliability for itself and its trading partners, security for its traditional allies and strategic advantage over old enemies.

In all these pursuits, the United States has long ago contented itself with what Jonathan Freedland once called the “sonofabitch school of foreign policy.” In other words, Washington doesn’t care if its cooperating allies are murderers, corrupt thieves, racists and the like. They might be bastards of the first order, but it is OK as long as they are “our bastards.” Such is the company we keep.

Turkey seizes assets as post-coup crackdown turns to business

August 18, 2016

by Ayla Jean Yackley


Istanbul-Turkish authorities ordered the detention of nearly 200 people, including leading businessmen, and seized their assets as an investigation into suspects in last month’s failed military rebellion shifted to the private sector.

President Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to choke off businesses linked to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom he blames for the July 15 coup attempt, describing his schools, firms and charities as “nests of terrorism.”

Tens of thousands of troops, civil servants, judges and officials have been detained or dismissed in a massive purge that Western allies worry Erdogan is using to crack down on broader dissent, risking stability in the NATO partner.

In dawn raids on Thursday, police from a financial-crimes unit entered some 200 homes and workplaces after a chief prosecutor issued 187 arrest warrants, state-run Anadolu news agency said. TV channel CNN Turk said 60 people were detained.

Gulen, formerly close to Erdogan and living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, has denounced the attempted coup, when rogue troops commandeered tanks and jets to attack government installations. He has denied any responsibility.

Police in Istanbul and 17 other provinces were searching for supporters of Gulen’s movement, including prominent businessmen, suspected of belonging to and financing his organization, CNN Turk said. The Istanbul prosecutor demanded the assets of the 187 suspects be confiscated, Anadolu said.

Turkey classified Gulen’s movement, which espouses philanthropy, interfaith dialogue and science-based education, as a terrorist network in July 2015. It says Gulen’s followers spent four decades infiltrating the bureaucracy and security forces in a bid to eventually take control of the state.FORTUNE 500

Among the businesses targeted were two Fortune 500 companies, CNN Turk said, naming clothing makers Aydinli Group and Eroglu Holding, which both run large retail chains.

No one answered calls to Aydinli, which had sales of 928 million lira ($317 million) in 2015, nor to Eroglu, which reported revenue of 490 million lira last year.

Eroglu said it had no links to any company providing finance to Gulen’s movement, according to the Hurriyet news website.

Nejat Gullu, chairman of baklava maker Gulluoglu, was detained, his company said in a statement on its website.

Gullu “would never stand with a terrorist organization or civic group that supports a terrorist organization,” it said and expressed confidence he would be cleared of any charges.

Earlier this week, police searched the offices of a nationwide retail chain and a healthcare and technology company, and detained key executives.

Turkey authorities said 4,262 companies and institutions with links to Gulen had been shut. In total, 40,029 people had been detained since the coup attempt, and about half had been formally arrested pending charges.

In purges of the military, police and civil service 79,900 people had been removed from public duty.

Turkey also wants other nations to crack down on Gulen-affiliated organisations, including schools and businesses.

European Affairs Minister Omer Celik called on Germany to shut businesses that have links to Gulen and are operating there, according to Wirtschaftswoche magazine.

The EU and the United States have expressed concern about the scale of the crackdown, and human rights groups have said a lack of due process will ensnare innocent people who had no role in the abortive coup.

But officials say they have to act fast to prevent further attempts by Gulen’s “parallel state” to destabilize the government from within the bureaucracy and business community.

It has demanded Washington extradite Gulen so he can face charges in Turkey, drawing a cautious reaction from U.S. officials who say they need to see clear evidence linking Gulen to the military putsch.

A faction of the military attempted to seize power on July 15, killing some 240 people, mostly civilians, and wounding 2,000. About 100 people backing the coup were also killed, according to official estimates.

Authorities are still searching for 137 fugitives, including nine generals and admirals, Defence Minister Fikri Isik told Anadolu. He also said the government is considering an extraordinary meeting of the Supreme Military Council this month as it plans an overhaul of the military to expand civilian control over Turkey’s armed forces, which have toppled three governments since 1960.

(Additional reporting by Daren Butler; Writing by Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Patrick Markey and Anna Willard)

Germany resumes weapons shipments to Iraqi Kurds

Germany has resumed weapons shipments to Iraqi Kurdistan, where forces are battling “Islamic State” fighters. Germany halted the shipments in January after a media report found some of the weapons on the black market.

August 17, 2016


The German military on Wednesday said it had resumed weapons shipments to the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga after the Kurdistan Regional Government vowed to ensure the arms would not end up in the hands of unauthorized users.

The shipment included 1,500 rifles, 1 million rounds of ammunition, three armored vehicles and 100 MILAN guided missiles. Peshmerga fighters regard the anti-tank MILAN (pictured) as a valuable weapon against IS suicide truck bombs on Kurdish frontline positions.

Germany stopped weapons shipments to the Iraqi Kurds in January after media reports emerged showing some weapons meant to fight IS were being sold on the black market. An Iraqi Kurdish investigation into the matter found 30 of 28,000 weapons delivered by Germany had been lost or illegally sold.

The latest arms shipment came with an end-user agreement in which the Kurdish government agreed to not hand over any German arms to third parties.

Germany has sent more than 2,000 tons of weapons in more than 30 shipments to the Iraqi Kurds since the first weapons were delivered in September 2014. Germany also has about 150 troops in northern Iraq training Kurdish forces alongside other nations in the anti-IS coalition. Kurdish forces have also been trained in Germany.

Snowden: Exposure of alleged NSA tools may be warning to US

August 16, 2016

by Raphael Satter


PARIS (AP) — The exposure of malicious software purportedly linked to the National Security Agency is likely a message from Moscow, former intelligence worker Edward Snowden said Tuesday, adding a layer of intrigue to a leak that has set the information security world abuzz.

Technical experts have spent the past day or so picking apart a suite of tools allegedly stolen from the Equation Group , a powerful squad of hackers which some have tied to the NSA. The tools materialized as part of an internet electronic auction set up by a group calling itself “Shadow Brokers,” which has promised to leak more data to whoever puts in a winning bid.

In a series of messages posted to Twitter , Snowden suggested the leak was the fruit of a Russian attack on an NSA-controlled server and could be aimed at heading off U.S. retaliation over allegations that the Kremlin is interfering in the U.S. electoral process.

“Circumstantial evidence and conventional wisdom indicates Russian responsibility,” Snowden said. “This leak is likely a warning that someone can prove U.S. responsibility for any attacks that originated from this malware server. That could have significant foreign policy consequences. Particularly if any of those operations targeted U.S. allies. Particularly if any of those operations targeted elections.”

Snowden didn’t return messages seeking additional comment. The NSA didn’t return emails seeking comment on his claim. Messages sent to an address registered by the Shadow Brokers were also not returned.

Allegations of Russian subversion have been hotly debated following the hack of the Democratic National Committee, an operation which Democratic politicians, security companies and several outside experts have blamed on the Kremlin. Russian officials have dismissed the claims as paranoid or ridiculous, so the message delivered by Snowden — who resides at an undisclosed location in Moscow under the protection of the Russian government — struck many as significant.

Academic Thomas Rid, whose book “Rise of the Machines” traces the earliest known Kremlin-linked computer hacking campaign in the U.S., said Snowden’s declaration would likely be interpreted as “shrewd messaging” from Russian intelligence.

Matt Suiche, the founder of United Arab Emirates-based cybersecurity startup Comae Technologies, said he and others looking through the data were convinced it came from the NSA.

“There’s zero debate so far,” he said in a telephone interview.

The Benefits and Hazards of Trumpism

– all gathered together in one speech

August 17, 2016

by Justin Raimondo


Donald Trump’s most recent foreign policy speech, in which he explained how he would deal with the Islamic State (ISIL) and the Middle East in general, contained multitudes – everything good and everything questionable about his brand of “America First” nationalism. Here is Trumpism on full display, the common-sensical and the nonsensical intertwined. While I realize a presidential election campaign is not the time for nuance, it behooves us to pull apart these disparate strands if we want to understand this moment in our history.

He starts out by defining the problem: the series of attacks that have horrified the world and flummoxed our law enforcement agencies. And what’s notable here is that he just doesn’t talk about what’s going on overseas, as you might expect in a speech ostensibly about foreign policy: he talks about San Bernardino and Orlando alongside Paris and Brussels. In short, he brings it all home.

This underscores his entire orientation: it’s what “America First” is all about. Why should Americans care about ISIL? Well, folks, says Trump, it’s because they’re attacking us right here on the home front. Contrast this with the usual neocon-Hillaryite politically correct gobbledygook: we have to spread Democracy and Goodness throughout the Middle East! They don’t have gay rights in Afghanistan! We must defend the “international order”!

There’s the problem: ISIL. So what caused it? Trump’s answer:

“The rise of ISIS is the direct result of policy decisions made by President Obama and Secretary Clinton.”

What? I seem to remember some guy named George W. Bush – didn’t he invade Iraq or something? – who vowed to pursue the goal of “ending tyranny in our world.” Why, as I recall, he even invoked Doestoevsky’s novel about revolutionary nihilism, The Possessed, and pledged to ignite “a fire in the mind” throughout the Middle East – and the world! And the fire is still burning….

In fairness, Trump gets to the Iraq war later on in the speech, but this omission is telling, although it probably says more about who’s advising him than it does about the candidate himself.

In any case, Trump goes on to denounce the disastrous military interventions that empowered ISIL in Syria and Libya: so far so good. He also notes US support for the Muslim Brotherhood’s revolution in Egypt, another aspect of the post-“Arab Spring” turn in US policy that ended badly. Then we get the Fox News version of history: the Iran deal put Tehran “in a dominant position of regional power and, in fact, aspiring to be a dominant world power.”

This makes zero sense, especially after his long peroration about the horrors of ISIL: does he not know that Iran is fighting ISIL in Syria? Does he not realize that Iranian-backed militias in Iraq are fighting alongside Iraqi government forces to defeat the pro-ISIL pro-al Qaeda Sunni insurgency?

Does he know anything?

We get yet more Fox News revisionist history with his description of President Obama’s Cairo speech as an “apology tour,” followed by this:

“The failure to establish a new Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq, and the election-driven timetable for withdrawal, surrendered our gains in that country and led directly to the rise of ISIS.”

He blames Obama, but this is false: it was the Bush administration that negotiated the Status of Forces Agreement and established the withdrawal timetable. President Bush signed a memorandum of understanding that stipulated all US troops must leave Iraq by December 31, 2011. The withdrawal wasn’t “election-driven” – it was Bush-driven.

Surely the Bush administration wanted to keep US troops in Iraq: to do otherwise would be to admit, in deeds if not in words, that the invasion had been a disastrous mistake. The sticking point was the question of immunity of US soldiers from Iraqi law: given the horrific history of Abu Ghraib, and other numerous instances of US troops committing war crimes in Iraq, the Iraqis insisted that any US soldiers accused of engaging in such acts would have to be subject to trial in Iraqi courts. The US, which has a policy of not allowing its soldiers to be tried in foreign courts, refused to go along with this. And that was the end of that.

While it’s true that the Obama administration tried to resurrect the agreement, the US prohibition on foreign legal jurisdiction over our troops was considered nonnegotiable.

What comes next is the under-appreciated sight of a Republican candidate for President trying to prove that he was against the Iraq war from the beginning. Trump cites an interview with Neil Cavuto in which he said the economy is a bigger problem and we shouldn’t “be going in yet.” (Yet?) He cites a fuller and more definitive statement made to Esquire magazine in 2004:

“What was the purpose of this whole thing? Hundreds and hundreds of young people killed. And what about the people coming back with no arms and legs? Not to mention the other side. All those Iraqi kids who’ve been blown to pieces. And it turns out that all of the reasons for the war were blatantly wrong. All this for nothing.”

So, if it was all “for nothing,” then it was a good thing we pulled out, and indeed we should’ve pulled out sooner. Right? Of course not!

“So I have been clear for a long time that we should not have gone in. But I have been just as clear in saying what a catastrophic mistake Hillary Clinton and President Obama made with the reckless way in which they pulled out.

“After we had made those hard-fought sacrifices and gains, we should never have made such a sudden withdrawal – on a timetable advertised to our enemies. Al Qaeda in Iraq had been decimated, and Obama and Clinton gave it new life and allowed it to spread across the world.”

The myth of Victory Denied is a longstanding right-wing trope that refuses to die: they say the same thing about the Vietnam war. If these people had their way, US troops would still be fighting in the Mekong delta. “We weren’t allowed to win!” is the one point where neoconservatism and Trumpian nationalism intersect. Except it has nothing to do with reality. The Iraqis kicked us out – and in Vietnam we were militarily defeated. Neither war was winnable.

Indeed, every war we’ve fought on the Asian landmass has ended in, at best, a stalemate, as in Korea, and at worst a complete rout, as in Vietnam. Iraq is no different: and neither, for that matter, is Syria, or Libya, or any of the other interventions Trump denounces. The choice we faced in all of these wars was: either permanent occupation, or else withdrawal. There’s no in-between. Our troops are still in Korea, more than half a century after the fighting ended, a fact that Trump complains about. Does he want Iraq to turn into another Korea?

He slyly acknowledges this contradiction when he goes into his unbelievably stupid “we-should’ve-kept-the-oil” riff:

“This proposal, by its very nature, would have left soldiers in place to guard our assets. In the old days, when we won a war, to the victor belonged the spoils. Instead, all we got from Iraq – and our adventures in the Middle East – was death, destruction and tremendous financial loss.”

What this means, in effect, is that we’ll be in the Middle East forever, guarding “our assets.” And, by the way, the “old days” Trump refers to are really ancient times: when the Romans sacked cities and lugged the loot back to Rome. America’s wars didn’t involve us collecting anything but the war debts of our shiftless allies: after World War I, we effectively canceled the war debts owed by Great Britain and France. After World War II, the Marshall Plan subsidized the nations of devastated Europe, and the Brits didn’t pay off their debt to us until 2006 (after multi-year suspensions of payments).  These wars, and indeed all the wars waged by us in modern times, resulted in nothing but “death, destruction, and tremendous financial loss.”

Trump then turns around and declares “The era of nation-building will be ended.” Great! But we’ll still be fighting in Iraq, and god knows where else.

So how will Trump deal with the Islamic State? Well, beyond calling “an international conference,” we don’t know. He doesn’t want to “telegraph” his Grand Plan to “our enemies.” And he also doesn’t want to tell the American people what he plans to do – but we can glean the implications from what he does say. And I have to say it’s not encouraging.

Trump’s immigration proposals – “ideological vetting” of potential immigrants, a “temporary” ban on immigrants from countries rife with terrorism, a “Commission on Radical Islam” to study the problem – are vague placebos in place of a real policy. France has a large Muslim population. So does Britain. So does Germany. Are these countries, all of which have been the scenes of homegrown terrorist activities, among those he wants to impose his “temporary” ban on? He never tells us which countries he’s talking about. As for the “vetting” process: will any would-be terrorist answer truthfully when asked if he or she believes in Sharia law, as opposed to the US Constitution? Grow up!

If Trump were serious about using immigration policy as a weapon in the “war on terrorism,” he would advocate an immigration moratorium. He used the word “extreme” a half a dozen times when he talked about who should be allowed to enter the country, but apparently this is too extreme even for him – and yet it’s the only realistic approach to take. I’m not saying I would endorse such a proposal, but at least it has the virtue of being both practical and honest.

To sum up: on the plus side we have Trump denouncing the Iraq war and the interventions in Libya, Syria, and Egypt that gave ISIL a pathway to prominence. That a Republican candidate for President is saying these words is more significant than anyone is willing to admit: it represents a sea change for the GOP, and it means there’s no going back to the neoconservative nostrums of the past. There’s also his willingness to cooperate with Russia, which would mark a decisive break with the new cold warriors who inhabit the Beltway and infest both parties. And you’ll note that, when listing our Muslim allies in the Middle East, Trump didn’t mention the Saudis or the Gulf emirates. They surely noticed this glaring omission, although no one else did.

On the negative side, we see that Trump is a captive of the ridiculous idea that once we’re in we have to stay in and fight until we achieve “victory.” What he doesn’t realize is that when you’ve dug yourself into a hole the way out is to stop digging – and his failure to understand this simple principle is surely replicated by the way he’s conducted his campaign so far.

What Trump’s critics don’t understand is that his victory in the primaries represents a break with Bush Republicanism, which is why the neoconservatives have been his most vocal and embittered opponents. He really does oppose the first principle of interventionism, which is that “American leadership” is the singular answer to the world’s problems. What he doesn’t get, however, is that we can’t allow ourselves to get sucked back into the Middle East maelstrom under the pretext of cleaning up the mess made by the globalists.

After party votes to clip Netanyahu’s wings, Likud backs down

Party secretariat revoked a number of key powers from prime minister, but after Netanyahu called in the chairman for a talk, move was put on ice.

August 17, 2016

by Chaim Levinson


The Likud secretariat voted Tuesday to revoke a number of managerial powers away from the party’s chairman, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. However, by Wednesday morning, the vote’s implementation was frozen after Netanyahu called in the secretariat’s chairman for a talk.

Tuesday’s decisions effectively prevented Netanyahu from continuing to appoint his own cronies without the secretariat’s consent. The secretariat, currently headed by Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, was even given the ability to impose financial sanctions on any such appointee. However, on Wednesday morning, Katz was called in for a meeting with Netanyahu and he decided to postpone the implementation of the new rules.

Under the new rules voted on on Tuesday, senior party functionaries like the director general and department heads will be able to serve for a maximum of eight years. Moreover, any new hires or contracts with outside service providers will have to be approved in advance by the secretariat.

Finally, the secretariat decided to hire its own legal adviser, Ilan Bombach, who will work independently of the party’s legal adviser. The latter functionary, attorney Avi Halevy, is considered close to Netanyahu.

According to Likud’s bylaws, the secretariat, which compromises 99 Knesset members and central committee members, is responsible for managing the party’s institutions. Over the past year, Katz has tried to inject real content into this responsibility, resulting in clashes with Netanyahu, who has long controlled the party in his role as chairman.

Tuesday’s decisions were supposed to prevent Netanyahu from continuing appointing his own cronies to key positions or hiring outside service providers without the secretariat’s consent. And should he try to circumvent these rules, the secretariat was given a powerful weapon to deploy in response: It can fine any worker who signs such a contract by an amount equivalent to the entirety of the unauthorized expenditure.

Though the new decisions were to take effect immediately, on Wednesday, following Netanyahu’s meeting with Katz, it was decided that a special committee will be set up to discuss the party’s administrative polices – its first test will come in the appointment of a new director general for the party. The incumbent, Gadi Arieli, is expected to resign soon.

Three powerful ministers have recently joined forces to form an opposition to Netanyahu within the party: Yisrael Katz, Haim Katz and Zeev Elkin. And Netanyahu’s troubles are compounded by the fact that he currently lacks a political adviser, since Kobi Tzoref, who previously held that job, left last week.

Netanyahu still has the backing of Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, who has a powerful base of support in Likud. But she wasn’t present at Tuesday’s secretariat meeting, since she was on her way home from the Rio Olympics.

Only two of the dozens of people who attended Tuesday’s meeting voted against the decisions: Minister without Portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi and central committee member Tzachi Barabi.

Now, Netanyahu is expected to try to fight these decisions through legal channels. Even before the vote, Halevy had petitioned Likud’s internal court against the proposals, but the court declined to hear the petition, saying it didn’t expect any decisions to be made at Tuesday’s meeting. Now that the decisions have been made, Halevy will presumably go back to court and ask the judges to overturn them.

Who is an extremist? UK faces legal challenge over strategy to stop radicals

August 17, 2016

by Michael Holden


London-To his detractors, including the British government, Salman Butt is an extremist whose views on Islam fly in the face of Britain’s values and help foster an atmosphere where young Muslims can be radicalised by militants.

Even though he is not accused of supporting militant groups or violence, the British authorities believe it is only by cracking down on activists like Butt and denying a forum for their ideas to be widely heard that the threat posed by jihadis and groups such as Islamic State can be countered.

But critics, ranging from civil rights groups to leading academics and lawmakers, say what the government is trying to do amounts to a curb on free speech which could drive a wedge between the authorities and Britain’s 2.8 million Muslims

They argue if anything such plans will only make the problem worse and amount to an attack on the fundamental liberties the government wants to protect.

“Over the last few years the circle of who and what is considered extreme has been expanding slowly,” said Butt, 30, who is taking the British government to court over its counter-extremism strategy.

“Before it was just somebody committing crimes or calling for violence and then they expanded more and more to everyday people who happen to maybe criticize certain aspects of the government policy or hold certain conservative Islamic views,” he told Reuters.

The problem facing Britain and other Western governments is the same one with which they have wrestled since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States: how to stop their young citizens being radicalised without been seen to censor critics.

Thousands of Muslims, including more than 800 Britons, have left Europe for Iraq and Syria, many to join Islamic State (IS), while the recent deadly attacks seen in Paris, Brussels and Nice are a graphic illustration of the risk posed by some lured to a violent Islamist cause at home.

The revelation on Tuesday that Anjem Choudary, Britain’s most high-profile Islamist preacher, has been convicted for inviting his followers to support Islamic State has again brought the issue to the fore.

Choudary was convicted last month although this could not be reported until Tuesday to avoid prejudicing the jury in a separate case. It ended a streak of many years during which he served as the leader of banned organizations but dodged prosecution by carefully managing his public remarks.

Critics questioned why it had taken so long to act against someone who had been a leading radical Islamist figure for two decades and whose followers had been involved in militant plots and acts of violence across the world.

“There should be zero tolerance toward any cleric – Muslim or otherwise – who advocates extremist views and rejects British values,” Britain’s top-selling Sun newspaper said. “Britain has been tolerant of men like Choudary for too long.”


For those such as new British Prime Minister Theresa May, tackling extremism means no longer tolerating those who reject the country’s values: democracy, free speech, equality and the rule of law.

“Where non-violent extremism goes unchallenged, the values that bind our society together fragment,” May, who had been interior minister for six years before taking over the Downing Street reins, said in a speech in February.

“So while by no means all extremism leads to violence, it creates an environment in which those who seek to divide us can flourish.”

May, in her former guise as interior minister, was responsible for drawing up a proposed Counter-Extremism bill with bans for individuals or groups deemed extremist and closures of places where radicals thrive, including mosques.

However, there is still no sign of the legislation, with the Home Office (interior ministry) saying it would come in “due course”. One main obstacle is who decides who or what is extremist.

“Providing a clear definition of extremism is a difficult task and the government has yet to succeed in doing it,” said senior opposition Labour lawmaker Harriet Harman, head of the UK parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights which produced a critical report on the government plans in July.

Even Finance Minister Philip Hammond admitted in May the issue was “a minefield”: “The line between acceptable and non-acceptable behavior is fine and fraught with dangers,” he said.


Last September, Butt, 30, who runs a discussion website Islam21c, was one of the first to fall foul of the moves to clampdown on non-violent extremists after being identified by a secretive cross-government Extremism Analysis Unit, established to pick out groups or individuals of concern.

The activist, who has a biochemistry doctorate, was named in a Downing Street press release on “hate speakers” as one of six figures who gave talks at university campuses and were “on record as expressing views contrary to British values”.

A later explanation given by the government to parliament said he had appeared to compare homosexuality to paedophilia and had spoken alongside figures from CAGE, a campaign group that gained attention for contacts with Mohammed Emwazi, the now-dead British militant known as “Jihadi John” who appeared in Islamic State videos beheading foreign captives.

Butt said the accusations against him were “complete rubbish”, and is now taking legal action to challenge the government’s way of identifying extremists and its “Prevent” strategy, its much-criticized policy to stop radicalisation.

“What has happened over the last 10 years of counter-terrorism policy is it’s completely going about it in a very destructive way,” he said.

“The government need to do a job to keep people safe but the way it’s being done, especially recently, not only are they looking in the wrong place … but they are completely ignoring the negative effects it’s having on community relations.”

It is not just those like Butt who are targeted that are concerned. In January, Professor Louise Richardson, the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, said it was better to let extremists speak on campuses and challenge their views than to simply ban them.

David Anderson, Britain’s terrorism law watchdog, has warned that plans to clamp down on individuals and organizations accused of extremism could backfire by playing into the hands of militant recruiters.


But those who back the government’s intent say allowing extremists free rein in public forums or at universities exposes vulnerable people to their messages. They point out that graduates or students at British universities have been involved in numerous militant plots including Emwazi and Nigerian “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Rupert Sutton, director of Student Rights, an organization that campaigns against extremism on university campuses, said people with controversial views were often given a platform where their opinions were not questioned.

“They’re too often given a free pass,” he told Reuters. “If you put it as a dichotomy between either freedom of expression or ban them from speaking that is too binary. What we need to think about is how we are going to make it so that when they do come to speak they face challenge rather than being banned.”

He said the focus should be on using existing legislation to tackle people like Choudary, even if he had long proved adept at ensuring he did not break the law.

“When someone is as effective at it as Choudary is, you are going to get people saying: ‘How is he allowed to go around on the street doing this?'” he said.

(editing by Peter Graff)

 Clinton Foundation hired cyber firm after suspected hacking: sources

August 18, 2016

by Mark Hosenball, Dustin Volz and John Walcott


Washington-Bill and Hillary Clinton’s charitable foundation hired the security firm FireEye to examine its data systems after seeing indications they might have been hacked, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

So far, no message or document hacked from the New York-based Clinton Foundation has surfaced in public, the sources said.

One of the sources and two U.S. security officials said that like hackers who targeted the Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democrats’ congressional fundraising committee, the hackers appear to have used “spear phishing” techniques to gain access to the foundation’s network.

These techniques include creating bogus emails or websites in an effort to gain access to Clinton Foundation staffers’ emails and then to the foundation itself.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the U.S. officials said the hackers used the same techniques Russian intelligence agencies or their proxies employed against the Democratic Party groups, which suggests that Russians also attacked the foundation.

Kremlin officials dismissed as absurd the allegations of Moscow’s involvement, which were made last month amid political party nominating conventions for the Nov. 8 election.

Neither former White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, the Clinton Foundation’s principal lawyer, nor a spokeswoman for the foundation responded to requests for comment on the hacking and the precautions the organization has taken.

Officials with FireEye said the company could not discuss its clients.

Although no documents have emerged, the attacks have left some Democrats and Clinton campaign officials worried that the hackers might have obtained emails and voice messages that could be used to reinforce Republican charges that donors to the Clinton Foundation were rewarded with access to Clinton and her aides while she was secretary of state or to her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Another concern: hackers or outlets such as the anti-secrecy WikiLeaks website could release documents and emails damaging to her presidential campaign, several people familiar with the foundation’s activities said.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee convened a closed-door meeting on Wednesday to discuss best cyber security practices.

The meeting, according to people familiar with it, included a recommendation that staff and lawmakers change their phone numbers and email addresses if that information was published online by hackers believed to be working for or with Russian intelligence agencies.

One of the U.S. officials said, however, that the spear phishing pattern used against several organizations, appears to reinforce the intelligence community’s “preliminary assessment” that the attacks were intended more for espionage than for trying to influence the U.S. presidential election.

So far, said a third U.S. official familiar with the attacks, there is no evidence that the hackers were able to follow any of the hacked emails into the State Department’s classified email systems.

Anxiety in Washington over the possibility that a foreign power might be using hacked information to meddle in the U.S. election has prompted some Democrats and cyber security experts to urge the Obama administration to blame Russia publicly.

Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat on the House of Representatives intelligence committee, said the United States should carry “a big stick” in cyber security matters. “The U.S. government needs to be very clear, very direct, and hold these people accountable.”

Current and former White House and intelligence officials said the Obama administration is unlikely to blame Russia publicly, given the difficulty of attributing the attacks without revealing American sources and methods, the geopolitical concerns at play, and a fear that doing so could risk aggravating cyber conflict.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball, Joe Menn, Dustin Volz and John Walcott; Editing by John Walcott and Grant McCool)

 Faraway, So Close! Earth-Like Planet Discovered Orbiting Proxima Centauri

August 16, 2016

by Olaf Stampf


European astronomers have discovered an Earth-like planet that is orbiting Proxima Centauri, our nearest fixed star. It’s possible it has water — and, with it, life.

The faraway world exists in constant twilight. Although its nearby blood-red dwarf star only provides one tiny fraction of our sun’s light, its warmth might still be enough to create a life-sustaining climate.

But is there really life on this newly detected planet? Nobody knows — at least not yet. Only one thing is certain: Because of the darkness, animals and plants would look different from the ones we know from Earth. Trees and shrubs would have pitch-black leaves, as if they’d been burned. The alien flora would need to be darkly colored to use the dim starlight for its photosynthesis.

And what about higher forms of life, like animals or intelligent beings? It’s very possible that exotic organisms exist on the planet. Given that it is several million years older than the Earth, it would have had enough time for life to develop.

On the other hand, it would also have to repeatedly withstand hellish conditions. Its sun is a so-called flare star, a cosmic fire-breather that tends to produce apocalyptic eruptions of plasma. All of the planet’s oceans, rivers and lakes may well have long since evaporated.

The newly discovered planet doesn’t yet have a name, but the red dwarf star around which it circles is famous: Proxima Centauri, our nearest fixed star, only 4.24 lightyears away — our sun’s closest neighbor.

That’s what makes this finding so scientifically exciting. At this point, the discovery of planets that are illuminated by distant stars isn’t much of a novelty anymore. Over 3,000 “extrasolar planets” have been discovered in the last few years. But most of them are many hundreds of lightyears away, and are nearly impossible to further investigate. Proxima’s satellite is different: Never before have planet-hunters come upon another possible Earth that is so nearby, offering researchers the opportunity to actually search for traces of life.

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) plans on making the discovery, which has thus far been kept secret, public by the end of August. “It was hard work finding the tiny celestial body,” an astrophysicist who was involved in the search told SPIEGEL. “We were at the limits of what is technologically possible when it comes to measurements.”

The successful search project is called “Pale Red Dot.” The name is a reference to the legendary “Pale Blue Dot” photo that the Voyager 1 space probe took in 1990 when it was in the process of leaving the solar system forever. Its photo shows the Earth as a tiny blue dot. The researchers wanted to find a corollary red twin Earth — and they seem to have succeeded.

The Next Step

The search for planets was conducted using a specialized reflector telescope that the Europeans operate on a mountain called la Silla in the Atacama Desert in Chile. At the start of this year, the space researchers began to direct the instrument at Proxima Centauri, which cannot be seen with the naked eye. For months, they repeatedly recorded its dim starlight and the highly sensitive measurement instruments ultimately discovered that the dwarf star lurches suspiciously from side to side.

At this point, the data-evaluation process has been completed. For the astrophysicists there is no doubt left: The dance of the dwarf star is caused by an unseen companion tugging at Proxima Centauri. The planet’s calculated mass suggests that it is rocky, like the Earth.

Even more exciting: It moves so close to the small red sun that liquid water could exist on its surface, which is thought to be a decisive factor when it comes to the possibility of life.

The researchers’ next big goal is logical. They want to determine whether the planet truly is an oasis in space. In order to do that, light from the planet would need to be intercepted and used to determine the chemical composition of its distant atmosphere.

The simultaneous presence of oxygen and methane would be enough to indicate life. Both gases react with one another to create carbon dioxide and water. In a barren atmosphere, oxygen and methane only exist in small amounts. If the levels are high, then organisms like bacteria or algae that produce the two gases must be present — it would be a kind of chemical fingerprint proving the existence of extraterrestrial life.

This kind of breakthrough discovery would make Proxima Centauri a tempting target for an interstellar research mission. Unfortunately, however, even this closest star is still unreachably distant.

Using today’s rockets, the distance between the stars is almost impossible to traverse: A conventional space probe would need about 80,000 years to get there — about as long as humans have existed on Earth thus far.

Things would go faster with the help of futuristic fusion propulsion, which German-American physicist Friedwardt Winterberg designed as early as the 1970s for the legendary Project Daedalus. His blueprint, which has been further developed since, sounds adventurous: The explosions of tiny hydrogen bombs, that release huge amounts of energy, could accelerate a space ship to over 10 percent of light speed.

But even a flight to the new planet at that rapid speed would take half a century — for the astronauts who dare to go, it would be a one-way journey.

US ready to ‘hand over’ the internet’s naming system

August 18, 2016

by Dave Lee

BBC News

The US has confirmed it is finally ready to cede power of the internet’s naming system, ending the almost 20-year process to hand over a crucial part of the internet’s governance.

The Domain Naming System, DNS, is one of the internet’s most important components.

It pairs the easy-to-remember web addresses – like bbc.com – with their relevant servers. Without DNS, you’d only be able to access websites by typing in its IP address, a series of numbers such as “”.

More by circumstance than intention, the US has always had ultimate say over how the DNS is controlled – but not for much longer.

It will give up its power fully to Icann – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – a non-profit organisation.

The terms of the change were agreed upon in 2014, but it wasn’t until now that the US said it was finally satisfied that Icann was ready to make the change.

Icann will get the “keys to the kingdom”, as one expert put it, on 1st October 2016. From that date, the US will lose its dominant voice – although Icann will remain in Los Angeles.

If anyone can, Icann?

Users of the web will not notice any difference – that’s because Icann has essentially being doing the job for years anyway.

But it’s a move that has been fiercely criticised by some US politicians as opening the door to the likes of China and Russia to meddle with a system that has always been “protected” by the US.

“The proposal will significantly increase the power of foreign governments over the Internet,” warned a letter signed by several Republican senators, including former Presidential hopeful, Ted Cruz.

Whether you think those fears are justified depends on your confidence in the ability of Icann to do its job.

It was created in 1998 to take over the task of assigning web addresses. Until that point, that job was handled by one man – Jon Postel. He was known to many as the “god of the internet”, a nod to his power over the internet, as well as his research work in creating some of the systems that underpin networking.

Mr Postel, who died not long after Icann was created, was in charge of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). Administration of the IANA was contracted to the newly-formed Icann, but the US’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), part of the Department of Commerce, kept its final say over what it was able to do.

It’s that final detail that is set to change from October. No longer will the US government – through the NTIA – be able to intervene on matters around internet naming.

It rarely intervened. Most famously, it stepped in when Icann wanted to launch a new top-level domain for pornography, “.xxx”. The government wanted Icann to ditch the idea, but it eventually went ahead anyway.

From October, the “new” Icann will become an organisation that answers to multiple stakeholders who want a say over the internet. Those stakeholders include countries, businesses and groups offering technical expertise.

Best option

“It’s a big change,” remarked Prof Alan Woodward from the University of Surrey.

“It marks a transition from an internet effectively governed by one nation to a multi-stakeholder governed internet: a properly global solution for what has become a global asset.”

Technically, the US is doing this voluntarily – if it wanted to keep power of DNS, it could. But the country has long acknowledged that relinquishing its control was a vital act of international diplomacy.

Other countries, particularly China and Russia, had put pressure on the UN to call for the DNS to be controlled by the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union.

A treaty to do just that was on the table in 2012 – but the US, along with the UK, Canada and Australia, refused, citing concerns over human rights abuses that may arise if other countries had greater say and control over the internet and its technical foundations.

Instead, the US has used its remaining power over DNS to shift control to Icann, not the UN.

In response to worries about abuse of the internet by foreign governments, Icann said it had consulted corporate governance experts who said its the prospect of government interference was “extremely remote”.

“The community’s new powers to challenge board decisions and enforce decisions in court protect against any one party or group of interests from inappropriately influencing Icann,” the group said in a Q&A section on its website.

As for how it will change what happens on the internet, the effects will most likely be minimal for the average user.

“This has nothing to do with laws on the internet,” Prof Woodward said.

“Those still are the national laws that apply where it touches those countries.

“This is more about who officially controls the foundations of the Internet/web addresses and domain names, without which the network wouldn’t function.”



































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